Haunted 5k Race Report (10/22/2016)

I waffled big time about whether or not I wanted to sign up for this race.  On the one hand, the timing worked out well.  On the other hand, I could do a bike ride on Saturday.  On the one hand, I’m very familiar with the course.  On the other hand, there are a few hills in here.  On the one hand, I did want to see how well I could run.  On the other hand, meh.

Obviously, since you are reading this, I decided to run the Haunted 5k.  I knew the festive environment would be a ton of fun, and I wanted to get a good idea of my fitness since I decided I wanted to break 21 minutes in a Turkey Trot in November.  However, as usual, I felt less than confident, this time because I’ve been doing a lot of my runs by my office recently which means less built-in hill training.  Still, I set a goal.

I wanted to hit 21:44.  That would be a sub-7:00/mile pace and a pretty solid PR.

Based on my recent training paces, I felt that was feasible.  I also felt like I could easily surprise myself and run faster than that or disappoint myself and run quite a bit slower than that.  It just depended on the day and how I handled a course that was hillier than I’ve been running recently.

I picked up my number and swag bag on Friday afternoon.  Because the race was associated with a larger half marathon that day, the swag and expo were excellent for a 5k.  I got a long-sleeve t-shirt, a pair of knit gloves, and a few trinkets from the booths that were there, including a portable phone charger.

Rob and I watched a zombie movie (Juan of the Dead) to get into a spooky mood, and I went home and got to bed pretty early.

I woke up around 6:00am the next morning for the race at 9:00am.  I like to give my body plenty of time to wake up before racing.  I ate some cereal and a banana and had some coffee before heading out to the race site just before 8:00am.  I got there and started my warmup up by running to the bathroom, checking out the finish line, and then running back to my car.  It was the perfect fall morning.

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I kept an eye out for Rob.  He had tentatively planned on riding his bike out to the race that morning, but I had let him know it was a good race to skip.  He loves Halloween, though, so I suspected I’d see him there sooner or later.

After I warmed up a bit, I headed over to a group of people congregating around the starting line.  I realized with dismay that they were setting up the start line a good tenth of a mile behind the starting line indicated on the course map.  I knew that the course map likely didn’t take tangents into account, but it seemed like a very long distance to make up for tangents in a measly 5k.  I was worried that the course would be wrong and that I would miss setting a PR for a frustrating reason.  Additionally, I knew that regardless of whether the course actually ended up being long, the extra tenth of a mile at the beginning of the race would seriously screw with the timing checkpoints I had set for myself.  However, there wasn’t anything I could do, so I lined up with the idea that, in a worst-case scenario, I’d get in a really hard workout.

The race started, and I quickly settled into the position as first woman, running right behind a guy that was aiming for a 6:30/mile pace.  I knew that was a too fast and tried not to keep up with him, but I got excited, and since I suspected my own timing checkpoints were useless, I stayed closer to him that I should have for the first part of the race.  Sure enough, I reached my first timing checkpoint in about 1:45 instead of 1:07.  Since I wasn’t running nine minute miles, I knew that the position of the starting line was to blame for the extra time.  But again, it was what it was, so I tried to use the guy ahead me to pace myself.  I slowed down some (still not enough) and let him slowly increase the gap.

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After I settled into my pace in the first mile, a woman ran by me.  She was running strong, and I could tell she was running comfortably, so I didn’t try to stay with her.  Most of the first mile or so of the course is on slight incline, and I stayed right behind a young guy (who was probably in junior high or so).  Not long before the first mile marker, we turned left onto a neighborhood road and started heading downhill.  I naturally sped up and went past him.  I tried to keep an easy pace downhill while still taking advantage of the free speed.  Unfortunately, there was no first mile marker, so I still had no idea exactly how quickly I was running.

Throughout the second mile, it became more and more evident that I had started out too quickly.  I held strong throughout the first half of the second mile, but even just halfway through the race, I was struggling.  I knew I had slowed down some, but I tried to stay strong.  I find when I’m tired in a race, thinking about my form or the “strength” of my stride is much more effective at keeping my pace up than thinking of running fast.  This part of the race was a slight downhill, so that helped as well.  During this part of the race, I was running alone.  I could periodically hear someone not too far behind me, but there probably wasn’t anyone less than 30 seconds ahead of me.

I ran back into Sugarhouse Park right before hitting the two-mile mark.  There was a mile marker for this mile, and I was surprised to see 13:5x on my watch as I passed it.  I figured this meant that the race wasn’t going to be long after all and that I had a good chance at a PR.  However, I was already struggling, and the idea of running another full mile (and then some) was tough.  Oddly enough, I think at this point, seeing the mile marker actually hurt my mental state.  I’ve run the loop around Sugarhouse Park dozens of times.  Thinking of the literal road ahead of me that I had to run would have been more manageable than thinking of it as the measurement of one mile.

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Still, I soldiered on.  I was struggling with slight side aches on both sides and focused on my breathing to try to keep those side aches from hitting the level where they would affect my speed.  The profile of the final mile was a fairly steep downhill section followed by a sharp uphill and then a gentle decline before turning onto the grass and finishing up cross-country style.  I managed the downhill, though by that point, the jarring downhill wasn’t much more pleasant than a flat course.

Then I approached the hill.  It’s not a horrible hill, but I was struggling as it was.  There was a spooky tunnel right on the bottom of the hill that distracted me slightly, but then I had to face the music.  I tried to power up the hill and not let it get to me.  It certainly wasn’t as bad as the hill workout I had done a few weeks ago, but my quads were in rough shape by the time I reached the top.  At that point, I was less than half a mile from the finish and knew I just needed to gut it out for about three more minutes.

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Three minutes?  No problem!

Those last three minutes hurt, but I kept pushing it.  The final quarter mile or so of the course took us over the grass and through some spooky inflatable Halloween decorations.  Just as I saw the finish, I heard someone coming up behind me.  Let it be a guy! The kid I had passed around the first mile marker sprinted by me to finish just ahead of me.  He had a stellar kick.  I pushed through to the finish line a few seconds later.  I saw the clock tick over to 21:44 just as I crossed the line, so I knew I was close to my goal, and since I had taken a second or so to cross the finish line, I suspected I had gotten it.

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I managed to make it over to a curb of some sort and sat down.  I was exhausted.

Suddenly, I heard someone behind me. “Good job, Goof!”

I turned around and saw Rob! (“Goof” is his nickname for me.) He had made it to the park after all.  He had gotten there just in time to see me start, and had been able to see me finish up the race as well.  We chatted for a moment, and I finally felt up to moving.  So I walked out of the finisher’s area past some hot pizzas (pizza at 9:30 in the morning after a race?), and walked over to the results trailer to get my official results.  I typed in my number, and the computer printed out a receipt.  Second woman overall with a time of 21:42.1.  The half marathon that was run along with the 5k attracted a lot of the more serious runners (the first woman in the half marathon ran a 1:18!), so I was able to make the overall podium for the first time ever.

After checking the results, Rob and I went and got my bag, which I had stashed next to a tree up near the starting line.  Rob ended up riding home from there, and I went back to the finisher’s area to wait for the 5k awards.

It was a cool experience to have my name announced and to stand up on the podium with the first- and third-placed woman.  Plus, the haul was pretty good for the size of the 5k field.  I won a short-sleeve t-shirt with the same design as the long-sleeve one, a pink trucker hat, a thin windbreaker (that will be great for early or late season bike rides), and free entry into next year’s 5k.

I was pleased with my performance at the Haunted 5k, but it didn’t exactly build confidence that I can break 21 minutes in a less than a month at the Turkey Trot I plan on doing.  However, I’ve got another three weeks of training time ahead of me, and I’ll have the advantage of a flat course and lower elevation in November.  Plus, my older sister is going to pace me.* I feel like I have a good chance of setting another PR in a month, but I’m just not sure how big that PR will be.

The stats
Time- 21:42.1
Average pace- 6:59.1/mile
Place- 2/401

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*I know it’s a little silly to get paced to a mediocre 5k PR, but she’s training for a 5k in mid-November, and we thought this race a couple weeks later would be a fun thing to do together.  And since she’s way faster than me, the only way we’d actually be running the race together instead of just running the same race is if she paces me.

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Paul Moore Foundation “Fight like a Girl” 5k Race Report

The Paul Moore Foundation is a non-profit that Rob’s cousin founded to help support young families with a critically ill parent.  They raise money for these families so that the family can focus on treatments and spending time together instead of worrying about the financial burden that comes with serious illnesses.

Last year, I took part in the first annual Paul Moore Foundation 5k.  When I learned that the tradition was indeed continuing, I was excited to take part again.  This year, the 5k was a benefit for Kristy Carpenter, a young mom who was diagnoses with cancer shortly after the birth of her second child, hence the “Fight like a Girl” label for the race this year.

I planned to use this 5k as a fitness test.  I wasn’t sure where Ironman training had left me in regards to speed over shorter distances.  I decided to shoot for a 7:00/mile pace (21:44).  I did a prediction workout and was able to run 4 x 1600 at 7:00/mile, so I felt like that pace was within my reach, though I wasn’t sure how I’d do running in a small race without the track or other runners to keep me aware of my pace.

I woke up Saturday morning to a wet, miserable mess.  And it was cold—around 46°.  I had no idea what to wear (as is common during the first few weeks of fall and then winter), so I just brought everything.  I wore ¾ length tights under some looser pants.  And I had on a t-shirt under a dry-fit under a running jacket under a hoodie.  Rob and I ended up arriving at the race about an hour early while all the volunteers were setting up the tents and booths.  He immediately found his cousin and started helping out, and I eventually wandered over to the check-in/registration tent, trying as much as I could to keep my feet dry.

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Okay, so this was after the race.

After checking in, I stripped off one layer and went out for a warm-up jog.  I probably ran a little over a mile and a half, and during that time I got hot.  I had been planning on running with my dry-fit over my t-shirt, but I decided to race with just my t-shirt instead.  After my jog, I did some stretching and some fast striders in the parking lot.  I warmed up more completely for this race than for the races I’ve done in the past, which is something I’ve been working on.

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This too!

Fortunately, as the runners headed over to the start, the rain stopped.  Rob decided to go track down some coffee at a gas station and took off.  We all lined up at the start and waited around for quite a while.  I had shed all my layers and was starting to get pretty cold.  After fifteen minutes or so, the organizers called us to attention.  They talked a bit about the organization and Kristy’s story before the countdown.  Three… two… one… go!

I took off at what I hoped was a controlled pace.  And I was all alone.  I heard footsteps behind me for about 50 meters before they faded.  At that point, I figured that, unless I faded pretty significantly, I was probably going to be running by myself the entire race.  I had to rely on myself as opposed to other runners to keep my pace consistent.

I crossed my first “checkpoint” (.24 miles) almost 20 seconds ahead of schedule.  I shortened my stride and put on the brakes a bit.  I didn’t want to burn myself out.  My pace felt easy, and I felt strong.  Rob drove by, coffee in hand, and cheered for me out the window.

It wasn’t long before I was approaching the end of the first mile.  I wasn’t sure whether to expect a mile marker or not, so when I didn’t see one, I wasn’t too worried.  I had enough “checkpoints” written on my hand to keep me aware of my pace.

Near the end of the first half, the race turned onto a paved bike path.  When I checked my watch at that point, I was around 9:07, still over ten seconds faster than the 9:22 that I was supposed to hit at that point.  I knew I’d be turning around in just a minute and a half and used that as a motivation to keep my pace up.  However, when I did eventually turn around, I saw I had gone from over ten seconds ahead of pace to over ten seconds behind pace.  I knew I had not lost a full 25 seconds during two minutes of running, and I thought maybe I had miscalculated my original checkpoints.  I was a bit disappointed because it was pretty clear at this point that a PR or 7:00/mile pace was out of my reach.  However, I still wanted to finish strong, so I stayed in the game mentally.

After the turn-around, I got a view of who was behind me.  There was one man a little ways back, and then third place was another woman.  Neither of them seemed like immediate threats, but I knew I couldn’t fall apart and stay in front.  I didn’t pay as much attention to my checkpoints on the way back.  I was already behind, and I didn’t want to get discouraged.  Instead, I just focused on keeping the pace hard.  Some of the folks still on their way out called out to me or cheered for me as I passed.  I tried to acknowledge some of them, but I didn’t do a very good job.  I was almost completely focused on running hard at that point.

During the final mile, I just focused on looking for the turn, keeping my arms active, and keeping my cadence high.  I felt the beginnings of a side stitch, but fortunately, it never fully materialized.  I made the second to last turn and then started looking for the final turn.  I was scared I’d turn early, so when I saw a street that I thought might be the finish, I quickly changed my mind and figured it was probably the next street.  As I ran by the street, however, I heard someone yelling, so I quickly turned around and did indeed see the finish line down the street I had just run past.

I turned on the street, trying to finish strong and make up a little of the time I lost from the navigation error.  I pushed through and stopped my watch after crossing the line.  22:30.  Huh.  I was vaguely disappointed, as I had hoped to run faster than that (and felt I had the fitness to run faster than that as well).  However, it was fun to come away with the win.  I thought it was especially apropos that a woman win a “Fight like a Girl” 5k.

A few minutes, the second-place guy crossed the finish line.  The woman I’m assuming was his wife went over to congratulate him.  Then she turned to me.  “I’m so glad a girl beat him!” she said.  I responded with my typical nondescript noise that I make when I don’t know how to proceed in a conversation.  Then the guy commented on how I must race a lot and how fast I was for a girl.  I tried not to act completely confused.  When Rob came up, I told him how confused I was.  “I mean, I’m fast-ish, but it’s not like I’m really fast.  I don’t get it.  If he’s run many races, he’s been beat by plenty of women.  But if he hasn’t ever run a decent-sized 5k before, why is he hung up on getting beat by a woman?”

The mystery remained unsolved, but we moved past it.

One of Rob’s cousins crossed the finish, and I chatted with her a bit.  I saw that she was wearing a Garmin, so I asked, “What did you get for the course length?”

“I got 3.2-something,” she replied.  “And it was still looking for a satellite, so I didn’t start it until about there.”  She pointed to a tree about a hundred meters or so from the start line.  The course was relatively straight and didn’t have many turns, so I don’t think that tangents would account for the added distance.

So I’m totally going to be the blogger that says the course was long.  It makes sense, as it was a small charity race with the turnaround on a bike path.  It would also explain how I stayed on pace so well except for on the last stretch before the turnaround.   So, if the course was accurate, I ran a 7:12/mile pace.  However, if the course was long (somewhere between 3.2 and 3.3 miles), I ran anywhere from a 7:02/mile pace to a 6:50/mile pace.  There’s no way to know for sure, which does make me tempted to sign up for another 5k to see what I can do.

After the race, we enjoyed the silent auction and some time with Rob’s extended family.  I also got a chance to try a common LDS vice for the first time.  Because Mormons don’t drink coffee or alcohol, many of them have adopted “dirty sodas” as a treat.  These are essentially sodas with shots of flavor or puréed fruit.  I had never heard of this before I moved to Utah, but it was pretty good.  And I’m a big fan of soda after I run, so it was a nice treat.

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Soda menu

As Rob and I were getting ready to leave, we passed by a young woman sitting with second-place guy (his daughter, perhaps?).  She said, “Oh, are you the one who beat him?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s great!  He’s told, like, thirty people already, so I think it really bothers him!”

I again uttered my go-to nondescript response.  After we left, Rob and I picked up the conversation about what that guy’s deal was.  We weren’t mad or upset about it.  He seemed friendly enough.  It was just weird.  We could not figure it out.  Eventually, we settled on the idea that this guy was the fastest guy at his Crossfit gym (no offense, Crossfitters!), so he felt fast even though he wasn’t a serious runner.  Some sort of active participation in another form of exercise was the only thing that made sense.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the race.  The day before and morning of the race, I was just kind of dreading it.  I didn’t want to run it.  I even briefly considered trying to find an excuse not to show up at the race.  I wasn’t feeling it.  However, after running the race, I felt like I had seen my strong base from Ironman training in action.  It renewed my interest in doing some shorter races this fall as opposed to killing off that desire for a while like I expected it to.

The main take-away from this race was that I need to start being a little more structured in my training again.  It’s time for me to start planning my workouts at the beginning of the week again and training with more of a purpose.  I know what I need to do to make the progress in triathlon that I want to make.  I need to keep swimming.  I need to add in interval work on the bike.  And if I have the time and desire to make some strides in my running, I’ll do that as well.

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“Fall into Swimming” Swim Meet Report

I was a bit apprehensive to sign up for this swim meet.  Because it was an “all ages” meet, I suspected it would be mostly kids, and I was worried

Considering I’ve never done a swim meet, I had a fairly easy time setting goals for each of my events.  US Swimming has a list of “motivational times” for people of different age groups.  There are several tiers of times, ranging from B-standard to AAAA-standard.  My times in practice for the 50y freestyle and 100y freestyle were within one or two seconds of the B-standard, so my goal was to hit that B-standard for both events.  Striving for mediocrity!
50 yard freestyle—0:31.99
100 yard freestyle—1:09.39
Going in, I was more confident in hitting my goal in the 50 yard freestyle than the 100.  My fastest 50 in practice was a low 32 (so close) whereas my faster 100 in practice was right around 1:11 (still at least 1.5 seconds off).  However, I wasn’t extraordinarily attached to these goals.  This was my first swim meet ever, and I wanted enjoy it and learn a lot.

I was a bit apprehensive to sign up for this swim meet.  Because it was an “all ages” meet, I suspected it would be mostly kids, and I was worried I would be pretty much the only adult there.

I woke up the morning of the meet and checked my email.  The meet director had sent out a list all the heats that would be swum.  I scanned through, looking for heats assigned to the “17 and up.”  I only saw two… both with a single, lone swimmer.  And, of course, I was that single, lone swimmer.  I was literally the only adult who had signed up for the meet.

“Are you sure you still want to go?” Rob asked after I told him.

“Yes,” I said. “I already paid for it.” (I like to selectively ignore what I learned about sunk costs in my one college economics class when it suits me.)

I would be the only adult, and I would be literally the only one swimming in my heat.  At least I was going to win my age group!

The swim meet wasn’t until the afternoon, so in the morning, Rob and I headed to his company’s employee sale with a friend/co-worker of his.  There was a lot of standing in line and a lot of walking around.  We found some great deals.  Rob’s haul included a bike trainer and a pair of $300 cycling shorts, both purchased for a dollar a piece.

The sale was worth it, but by the time we got back to Rob’s place around 12:30 or so, I was relatively knackered.  I fit in a quick power nap and felt a little better (though still somewhat fatigued).  We left for the pool around 2:40 or so and arrived around 3:15, just in time to check in for the meet and warmup.

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I headed to the check in table and gave them my name.  I decided to embrace the awkward, so I announced, “Yeah, I’m the only adult” to the guy checking me in.

“Oh yeah!  When I saw that an adult had signed up, I was going to sign up.  But my boss needed me to work instead.”  I silently cursed the man’s boss and gave an internal sigh of relief.  At least one person here didn’t think I was a total idiot signing up for a kid’s meet.

I warmed up with an easy 300, two 100 yard builds and a few starts.  There was at least one benefit of being an adult at a kids’ meet—I think all the kids were afraid to hop in my lane, so I got to warm up in a lane all by myself.

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The adults on deck, however, were still more than willing to stand in front of the starting blocks when I needed to use them.
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Warming up in the pool.

After warming up, I sat on the deck, surrounded by a bunch of kids while they all swam their events.  There were a bunch of high school guys who had pretty clearly never swam and were there for a good time.  I’ll admit that it was a little funny to watch them get totally defeated by the races.  One kids dragged himself out of the water halfway through his IM (individual medley) and moaned, “I think I’m gonna stick to football.”

Before I knew it, it was time for my 50 yard freestyle.  I couldn’t understand the commands the starter was giving very well (megaphone in a bustling pool area), but I knew the noise to listen to for the start.  I crouched down in the blocks.  BEEP.  I dove into the water, focusing only on getting streamlined quickly to avoid losing my goggles.  The goggles stayed on.  And I started swimming.  The 50 yard freestyle is an all-out sprint.  Start as fast as you possibly can and lose as little speed as possible.  I felt strong coming into the wall and executed a solid (for me) flip turn.  I held up my speed well through the second half of the race, only started to feel fatigued during the last 10 or 15 yards.  I hit the wall with some force (to make sure I activated the timing pad).  I popped my head out of the water and looked at the scoreboard, which was tracking time.  30.04.  The woman timing with a stopwatch on deck gave me a time of 30.23.  I wasn’t sure which was more “official,” but I honestly didn’t care.  I was thrilled either way.  I hopped out of the water and gave Rob a big grin and a double-thumbs up.

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I’ve never actually seen myself do a swim start, so this photo was cool to me.
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You can’t see it, but there’s a giant grin on my face.

The woman running the meet came up to me after the 50 yard freestyle, told me I had swum well, and asked if I swam with a Masters group (was I just recruited?  Who knows!).  She also asked if I had a kid swimming in the meet as well, but she didn’t seem creeped out when I sheepishly admitted that I did not.  After talking with her, Rob and rendezvoused on the stairs for a couple minutes afterwards, and I told him how happy I was with my time before heading back down and waiting for my heat of the 100 yard freestyle.

I hopped up onto the blocks for the 100 yard freestyle.  The horn sounded, and I took off.  Since the 100 is not (for me) a full-out sprint, I was a little worried about going out too easy or going out too hard.  After the first lap, I felt tired but not spent and decided to keep up my pace as well as I could.  My final turn was subpar, and I didn’t get nearly as much of a push off the wall as I would have liked.  The last 25 was strangely familiar because it felt very similar to the last 100 of a 400m running race (which was a distance I ran pretty frequently in relays in high school).  I was working so hard but felt like I was barely moving… and I had no real idea how fast or slow I was actually swimming.

I (finally) hit the wall and came up gasping.  The big scoreboard showed 1:04.94.  Shocked, I climbed out of the water where the woman on deck told me I had swum 1:07.1.  I was a little confused considering the gap between those two times.  This time, despite knowing that I would be absolutely thrilled with either time, I did care some which one was correct.  Two seconds is a big discrepancy.

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Finally at the wall.

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Rob and I took off after I was done swimming.  He spent half his afternoon watching me swim about a minute and a half, and I didn’t want to force him to spend more time watching a bunch of kids struggle through the water.  And I was ready to not be the sole adult in a sea of children.  As we left, I asked if the official results would be e-mailed out.  I was told that they would be, but I haven’t received them yet, so right now I’m waiting to see if I hit a 1:05 or a 1:07 for the 100 yard freestyle.

As I expected, I’m very glad I decided to face the uncomfortable situation of swimming with a bunch of kids.  I was thrilled with my performance in both races, which far exceeded what I thought I was capable of.  I’m looking forward to signing up for at least a few more meets over the winter and getting a better idea of my potential as a swimmer.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene Race Report: Run (8/21/2016)

Pre-race
Swim
Bike

I consciously tried to start out slow on the run.  I had read far too many Ironman race reports where the athlete gets excited, goes out too fast on the run (feeling great!), and then crashes around mile 10.  I had practiced this pace off the bike, and I was going to go out slow.  The marathon course was three out-and-backs that were a little over 8.5 miles each.  The thought of three laps was overwhelming, so I remembered my dad’s advice from the day before—I didn’t have to run the second and third laps until I got there.  I tried to focus on nothing beyond keeping my pace around 10:00/mile.

The heat of the day didn’t bother me until I started the run.  On the bike, the wind plus the faster speed kept me plenty cool.  However, on the run, the 90° weather made a difference.  I was warm from the start and made the good decision to carry a water bottle from my transition bag with me throughout the first miles of the run so I could sip on it and douse myself with it when needed.  By the time I reached the first aid station, I was already soaked.  It was undoubtedly hot out, but I reminded myself that I had trained in the heat and was prepared for it.

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During the first lap, I just focused on eating regularly and keeping my body cool.  I ate some ProBar chews every twenty minutes or so and tried to drink water and a little cola or Gatorade from the aid stations.  During the first lap, I just focused on eating regularly and keeping my body cool.  I stuffed ice in my tri top and poured water on my head at every aid station.  The run course was populated by plenty of athletes, and the crowd support was amazing.  There were several groups of residents outside their homes offering to spray triathletes with their hoses.  My pace was consistently right around or even a little faster than 10:00/mile.  I felt surprisingly strong and did my best to find other athletes to run and chat with.  No one “stuck,” but I did get to meet a few people, most of whom mentioned how brutal the bike course was.  I was a little surprised as this theme emerged, and I started to realize how bad the wind had been.  I had dealt with it so well (for me) that I hadn’t realized how many athletes it had broken out there.

As I approached the end of my first lap, I ran by Rob and my parents, all cheering like maniacs.  I reported that I felt strong.  Athletes had the option of accessing their run special needs bag either after the first lap or after the second.  Because I wasn’t struggling, I opted to skip it on the first time around.  As I ran through one particular aid station early on in lap two, I suddenly heard someone cheering for me, completely all-out.  “GO KTP GO!!!”  I grinned and may have mustered a wave.  A former teammate from college was running an aid station and had spotted me running through.  It offered a surprisingly big mental boost.  As I approached the turn-around in the second lap, I started feeling the telltale signs of approaching stomach issues.  I felt bloated, like the things I had been eating were just sitting there fermenting in my gut.  I made the decision to cut back on my nutrition a bit to (hopefully) save myself from a time-consuming bathroom stop.

I hit the halfway point and felt okay, but running was getting harder and harder, and my pace was slowing a bit.  I had a hard time thinking about doing another 13.1 miles, so I just focused on getting back into town and finishing the second lap.  The wind had died down after blowing in the cooler weather (and bringing in some smoke to block the sun a bit).  I stopped dousing myself in water because it wasn’t necessary any more.

Finally, I approached town again for another dose of crowd support.  Rob and my parents cheered me on, as usual, but I was much less dapper this time around.  After my first lap, it hadn’t been tough emotionally to follow the sign to lap two instead of the sign to the finish.  However, turning for lap three instead of the finish was rough, especially since I heard the announcer call out an athlete’s finish just as I was approaching the turn-off.

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I approached the special needs bags again, but I decided not to stop.  First of all, I had all the food I needed out on the course.  I was still workout through my Probar chews, and they had Cliff Bar shot blocks (chews) out on the course if I needed them.  Secondly, I was a little worried that if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to get started again.

Heading out of town was tough, and I was close to descending into a dark place.  The thought of eight more miles was almost impossible to imagine.  So I didn’t.  I thought about getting to that next mile marker.  I had been watching my time throughout the run and calculating just how slowly I could do the remaining miles while still hitting my sub-13 goal.  By the time I started my third lap, I had built up enough of a buffer that I could run 13 minute miles and still finish in under my goal time.  I knew that my current run pace would allow me to walk the aid stations and still hit that pace, but I was in a groove (a difficult one, but a groove nonetheless), and I was worried that if I stopped to walk, I wouldn’t be able to get going again.

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During the third lap, I was running through a field of walkers.  I was passed by a few runners (and passed a few of my own), but the vast majority of people on the course were walking.  Without many people to keep in my sights or pace off of, I felt a bit like I was running alone, despite the sea of people surrounding me.  I didn’t let myself think about a particular mile marker until I reached the one before it.  I knew that, as long as I kept running, I would likely stay under an 11:00/mile pace and would smash my goal time.  So, one mile at a time, I forced my body to keep running.  Any time negative thoughts started to creep in, I slammed the door in their faces and returned my focus to the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement.

Each mile felt like it took forever, but slowly… ever so slowly… the miles ticked by.

19, 20, 21, 22…

I tried to remember the first two laps when I’d see those third-lap mile markers and felt like I would never, ever reach the third lap where they would be applicable to me.  But there I was.

Just keep running.  Just keep running.

At this point in the race, I had retreated deep within myself.  I managed some smiles and nods when I heard someone cheering me on by name, and I think I was still thanking the volunteers that handed me water and orange slices (blessed orange slices!) at the aid stations.  But I wasn’t thinking anything besides, “Keep running” and “How long until the next mile marker?”  The finish line was so close, but I didn’t let myself think about it yet.  I had to think about where I was and not where I was going.

It wasn’t until I hit the 25 mile marker that I knew I had it.  Just a little more pain, and I would be an Ironman.

I ran through the park where my family had been throughout the entire marathon.  They weren’t there, and I knew they were at the finish line waiting for me.

I approached the turn-off, where you go right for laps 2 and 3 and left for the finish.  I moved over to the left of the path, and everyone in the area started cheering.

I got a big, goofy grin on my face as I followed the signs to the finishing stretch, people cheering me by name the whole way.

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As I made the turn and saw the finish line ahead of me, I looked over and saw Rob cheering.  I ran over and grabbed his hand for a moment before running towards the finish line.  On the way, I gave countless high fives to spectators and two more special high fives to my mom and to my dad.  Running felt effortless, and every ounce of pain I had accumulated over the past 140 miles had evaporated.

When I crossed the finish line, I heard the announcer shout, “Katie Pridgen from Murray, UT…”  I didn’t even need to hear the “You are an Ironman!” part.  Grinning from ear to ear, I ran into the middle of a group of volunteers.  They took my timing chip and gave me a medal and a finisher’s t-shirt in return.  A good trade!

2 (1)

Run—4:25:28

Total time—12:33:13

Rob and my parents were waiting for me outside the finisher’s chute, and the first thing I did when I joined them was sit down on the grass and take my shoes off.  For the first glorious time in over ten hours, I was able to take my shoes off and keep them off.

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For the first fifteen minutes or so, I felt great.  I couldn’t stop smiling and chatting with my support crew who had spent their entire weekend doting on me.  I was still wearing the rubber bracelet that was meant to be given to a volunteer, so I gave it to my dad.  During my entire training cycle, he was there to chat with and bounce ideas off of.  He’s been a huge support of my athletic pursuits from the time I was a kid, so I felt it was only appropriate to give the bracelet to him.  I couldn’t believe how wonderful I felt, and I actually started to wonder if I had, somehow, not gone hard enough out on the course.

Soon, though, I started to get cold.  I was still wet from pouring water on myself during the first half of the run, but now it was cooler and I was no longer exerting myself.  I went to the medical tent and grabbed a space blanket.  I laid down on the grass and was just starting to fall asleep (I’m sure I would have been right as rain after a 10-15 minute power nap) when a medical volunteer came over and told me I should go to the medical tent.

Thus began my medical tent adventure.

They had me lie down on a relatively uncomfortable lawn chair.  They didn’t take my pulse or blood pressure or do any examinations other than periodically waking me up when I was just about to fall asleep.  Eventually, I had had enough, so I left and promptly almost passed out.  This was the only portion of the event where I didn’t feel completely taken care of by the volunteers.  When I almost passed out, they led me back into the tent where I sat there doing nothing again.

I needed to be replenished, but remember those stomach issues that I held off during the race?  They came to fruition, and after one near-emergency bathroom visit, I knew that if I ate anything, I’d have to rush to the bathroom again.  And since I couldn’t get up without passing out, that wasn’t going to happen.  About an hour and a half later, my dad had convinced a volunteer to let him drive through the barricades into the parking lot where the medical tent was located so that I could, with some support, make it back to the car.

I would have loved to stay for the midnight finishers, but I just wasn’t physically up for it.  At least if I had any doubts that I had pushed myself to the limit, they were dispelled with my post-race struggles.  Somehow, even feeling terrible and ending up being held hostage by medical volunteers didn’t diminish the Ironman experience.  I still grinned the whole way back to the home where we were staying.  I ended up feeling a little better after relaxing a bit, showering, and finally getting some food in me and was able to join my support crew in a little birthday celebration for my mom (who, by the way, spent her entire birthday in the hot sun, cheering on her lunatic daughter!).

As for the Ironman afterglow?  It finally started to wear off after a few days (and I finally stopped wearing my medal whenever I wasn’t in public).  But it still hits me now and again.  I’m an Ironman!  I’m incredibly proud at how well I executed my first (and only) Ironman.  I meted out my effort almost perfectly.  I beat my goal time by almost thirty minutes.  I had a strong mental attitude the entire time and, looking at the pictures, I had a smile for a large portion of the race as well.

Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Race Report: Bike (8/21/2016)

Pre-race
Swim
Run

The Coeur d’Alene bike course is composed two loops that each consist of two different out-and-backs.  Essentially, it’s a giant L that you ride twice.  The short arm is relatively flat, and the long arm is quite hilly.  I was thrilled to be on the bike.  My adrenaline was pumping a bit again, and the crowd support boosted my spirits even more.  I tried dial in on an easy pace as best as I could under the circumstances.

The first short out-and-back, I was passed a lot.  I wasn’t surprised.  As a decent swimmer who is limited on the bike, it’s quite common for slower swimmers to zoom by me during the first part of the bike.  I just kept reminding myself to ride my race.  There was one noticeable hill on the way out to the first turnaround, and as we were climbing up it, a woman rode by me and said, “I thought this part of the bike was supposed to be flat!”

I thought to myself, “Oh man… you’ve got some fun coming up later in the course!”

Before I knew it, I was riding back into town for the first time.  I saw Rob and my parents and gave them an excited wave and a giant smile.  I also passed the first aid station.  I had to use the bathroom more than I had during transition, but I got caught up in the excitement and thought, “Oh, I can go a little further!”  And then I made the turn to head south, towards those hills that had terrified me on the drive in.

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As we crossed a causeway over the river that feeds Lake Coeur d’Alene, I realized that I really had to pee.  Why didn’t I just go in transition?! Now I have to wait until the next aid station! I looked up and saw a guy in the distance stand up on his bike on the slight descent out of town.  And then I saw a trail of droplets hit the ground behind him.  He was peeing on his bike!  I bet I could do that. I had never tried to pee on my bike before, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  I stood up, tried to relax, and successfully emptied my bladder.  I was both extraordinarily proud of myself and painfully aware that my left shoe was now filled with urine.  It was gross, but I reminded myself that this early in the race, it was likely almost all water anyway.

A few minutes later, I approached the first hill that winds through the forests surrounding the lake.  (Did I mention that this entire course was absolutely beautiful?)  I shifted down as appropriate based on the grade and just kept riding.  Much to my surprise, I was actually underwhelmed.  This grade really wasn’t any harder than climbing Emigration Canyon.  In fact, I felt great.  Before I knew it, I was at the top of that first major climb.

My mantra for the bike leg was supposed to be “You’ve done longer, you’ve done harder,” but instead, a different phrase kept playing on a loop in my head—easy peasy lemon breezy.  (Post-race Googling has informed me that the proper phrase is actually “easy peasy lemon squeezy.”)  The second major climb was not so extreme, and it had some short descents, but it was longer.  I found myself passing a lot of people on the steeper grades.  Whenever I passed a group of people or finished an uphill section, I would grin and mutter, “Easy peasy lemon breezy” to myself. (I would make sure to wait until nearby cyclists wouldn’t be able to hear me, though! The last thing I wanted to do was discourage other competitor’s with the positive thinking that was helping me.)

I worried some that I was riding this first loop too hard.  After all, I was passing quite a few people on these climbs, and I’m not used to passing people on the bike.  However, my rate of perceived exertion really was low, so I trusted my training and kept at it.  I just focused on eating my waffles every thirty minutes, drinking to thirst, and riding at a comfortable level.  It wasn’t long before I hit the turn-around point.  I roughly calculated my average speed at this point and was shocked at how fast I was riding.  Maybe I am overbiking after all, I worried.  But now it was time to bomb down a few descents and ride back into town.

I stopped at one aid station on the way back for a quick bathroom break (peeing on the bike again didn’t seem worth it), but even with that, I averaged over 18mph on the way back.  It was nice to give my legs a little chance to relax and recover after the long climb.  I hit 56 miles right as I got back into town, and was again shocked at how fast I was going.  I saw my parents and Rob again, and my dad yelled out, “Ride smart!” to encourage me (and remind me!).  I gave them another big wave and grin to let them know I was feeling okay.

I eased up my speed a bit on that short out-and-back the second time.  My shocking (to me) speed had me worried that I had overbiked.  A few miles later, I was rolling up to special needs.  I took my time, eating about half a piece of pizza and drinking about a third of the (still cold!) Mountain Dew I had waiting for me.  After refilling my Honey Stinger waffles with the ones I had left in my special needs bag, I took a quick bathroom break.  I had to wait in line for a minute or so, much to my annoyance, but overall, I lost less than five minutes at the stop.  A few miles later as I riding back through town for the final time before the bike leg was over, my dad again reminded me to ride smart.

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As I turned south onto the twenty mile stretch of Highway 95, I noticed a headwind.  Just like I had expected, the drop in temperature forecast for Monday was being blown in by a strong wind.  I felt my stomach sink a little.  I really, really hate the wind.  But it was there, and I tried to remind myself to be thankful it had been still during the swim and first lap of the bike.  For the first major climb and descent, the wind wasn’t too debilitating.  At this point, the road was still surrounded by trees on both sides and made several turns which allowed all those trees to block the headwind.

And then I emerged from the trees into a more open field.

There was no hiding from the wind now.

I’ve ridden in some windy weather here in Salt Lake City, and this wind was as bad as any I’d ever seen.  And on top of the wind, I was climbing.  I slowed to a crawl, but I could see around me that others were slowing too.  Even the descents and flats during before the turnaround were slow.  There is nothing worse in cycling than cresting a hill and then descending at under 16mph because the wind is just so strong.  I resolved that I was going to remain mentally strong.  I’ve been broken by the wind before, but I wasn’t going to let that happen on race day when attitude is so important.

So I kept climbing.  And, like the first lap, I kept repeating, “Easy peasy lemon breezy” in my head as I rode, although this time, I was reminding myself that I could do it instead of describing what it actually felt like.  Even on this lap, I was still passing far more people than I was being passed by on the climbs, and, if I’m being honest, that helped my morale more than actively keeping a positive attitude.

I never truly descended into a dark place during this 20 mile portion of the bike, but there were some rough moments.  There was more than one time where I looked down at my Garmin, saw how much longer I had to go until the turn-around and how slowly I was going, and thought, “I’m never going to make it there.”  But I just kept riding, ticking down the miles until I finally saw the turnaround in the distance.

Turning around granted me new life.  The wind was no longer screaming in my ears, and I was now descending with a tailwind.  The ride back to town was fast, and I was holding on for dear life.  For most of the descents, I was riding around 35mph.  It wasn’t quite fast enough that I was completely terrified, but I was never completely comfortable either, especially when I’d get hit with a bit of a cross-wind.  Because of the speed, I was hyperfocused which made the already fast ride feel even faster.  I felt like I blinked and was back in town.

Before I knew it, I was handing my bike off to a volunteer and running into T2.

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Bike

Bike—6:41:21

The minute I started walking through transition, I realized my feet were killing me.  In my training long rides, I had gotten off my bike several times to fill up water, buy additional nutrition, etc.  During the race, I only got off my bike twice—to go to the bathroom around mile 45 and at special needs around mile 63.  I figured that the pain was just the blood starting to flow to my feet again.  I took off my shoes and started jogging.  Ten or twenty painful steps later, my feet were feeling fine.

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The run through transition was long.  I picked up my run gear back, took a bathroom break, and then ran into the changing tent.  I took some time in there instead of rushing.  I knew I was in a good place in regards to my goal time, so I ate a little pizza and drank a little Mountain Dew while pinning on my race number and collecting myself after the bike.  I left the changing tent feeling as ready as I could be for the marathon that awaited me.

T2—7:38

Ironman Coeur d’Alene Race Report: Swim (8/21/2016)

Pre-race
Bike
Run

The morning of my Ironman dawned bright and early.  Well, dark and way too early, rather.  I woke up around 1:15am to go to the bathroom, and I didn’t sleep a wink after heading back to bed.  Finally, around 2:50am, I gave up, hopped out of bed, and started getting ready for the day.  I tackled breakfast early because, if previous race morning experiences were any indication, my nerves would make eating impossible if I waited too long.  I managed to eat a banana, a bagel, and a bowl of cereal before the thought of food made me want to vomit.

We took two cars down to the start.  My dad and I rode together.  As we entered Coeur d’Alene, he got a bit turned around.  “We’re too far over,” he said.  “We’ve got to go this way.” And then he screeched around the corner.

I had pulled my phone out to see where we were on the map.  “No, you just turned away from City Park.”

“No, I don’t think so.  We shouldn’t have passed those hotels.”

“Dad, no, I’m literally looking at our location on this map right now and we are moving away from the park.”

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Eventually, I got him to listen to me, and we pulled up into the parking lot near the race.  I hopped out to get body marking and set up my transitions, and he parked the car.  After getting my ducks all in a row, I saw Rob.  I was thrilled to see him, as my nerves were pretty bad and I needed a good hug.  My parents, Rob, and I all hung out for a while waiting for the start time to approach.  I wiggled into my wetsuit, and before long, with a proper dose of panic, bid my family goodbye and headed to the start line.

I lined up right at the front of the 1:15-1:30 group.  Though my goal was 1:20, I thought my recent swim times indicated that it was very likely I’d swim around 1:15.  Because of that and the tendency of people to seed themselves too high in the swim, I felt good about my location.

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As I approached the start, the announcer yelled out, “Make sure your timing chip is securely fastened to your left ankle!” I looked down at my ankle.  Timing chip in place.  On the right ankle.  I had a moment of panic.  Not only was it under my wetsuit, but I had safety pinned the chip in place for extra security.  I didn’t think I had time to switch it over.  Surely it didn’t matter if it was on the wrong ankle?  I turned and asked someone, mostly for reassurance.  He said it was fine, so I took his word for it.

My nerves grew as I inched closer and closer to the start line.  Finally, I passed through the starting arch and ran into the water.  The start was surprisingly chill.  In fact, it was one of the least physical open water starts in which I’ve participated. Because of the rolling start, I only entered the water with a few athletes.  There was almost no bumping or jockeying for position.  It wasn’t more than a hundred yards before I was swimming in fairly clear water.  Once I was free of other bodies, my adrenaline died down a bit.  All of a sudden, I felt a giant grin spread across my face underwater.  I was doing an Ironman!

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The air was still, so the water was smooth.  I swam at a comfortable and sustainable pace.  About halfway out the first lap, I realized I didn’t know how far I had gone or how much further I had to go.  This swim sure seemed to be taking a while.  I tried to remember that time slows down when swimming and whenever I do open water swimming, I think to myself, “Wow, that must have been an hour!” only to check my watch and see that it has actually been thirty minutes. The buoys were numbered, but I couldn’t remember if there were eight or ten before we turned.  I suspected it was ten, so I was surprised when I saw the red turn buoy right after passing buoy number seven.

As I made the turn east, I saw the sun just starting to peek out over the hills.  It wasn’t affecting visibility yet, but I knew it would be on the second lap and made a mental note of it.  We only swam east for about 100 yards before making the turn back to the shore. During the swim back, I noticed that I seemed to be slowly catching up and passing different groups of swimmers, so although I didn’t know my pace, I felt like I was swimming well.

After the first lap, we actually exited the water, ran a very short distance along the beach, and then hopped back in the water for the second lap.  During this beach run, I took the Gu I had stashed in the wrist of my wetsuit.  I was expecting the run to be a little longer, and I barely had time to shove the trash back into my wetsuit before I was off on the second lap.

A few strokes into the second lap, I realized I hadn’t checked my split.  Fortunately, the water was clear enough that I could easily sneak a glance at my watch.  When I saw 35:xx, I knew I was swimming well.  The second lap was a little slower than the first, both because of a little fatigue in my arms and because the swimmers were more spread out, so I wasn’t drafting as much.

When I hit the turn buoy, I turned straight into the sun.  I literally could not see more than a few feet in front of me, but I knew the second turn buoy was very close.  I also caught glimpses of kayakers carefully corralling some sun-blind swimmers in front of me back onto the course.  I knew I was safe from going too far off course.  For this short stretch, I navigated off glimpses of other swimmers and kayaks before making the turn back to shore.

About halfway back to the shore, I felt something strange.  My timing chip had slipped out from under my wetsuit.  And then I felt it slip further down my ankle.  There was a moment of panic until I remembered the safety pin holding it firmly in place, even in the case of total Velcro failure.  It was not coming off.  I have never safety pinned a timing chip on before, and I mentally thanked the man running the athlete briefing who had suggested it.

I continued to catch up to groups of swimmers for most of the way back until I started getting close to shore.  Then, I suddenly got into the wrestling matches I had missed at the start.  People ran into me and even swam over me.  I couldn’t figure out why because I had been passing people steadily.  Then I remembered… we were almost done!  And this was, of course, a race.  I didn’t really want to bury myself in the swim, but I did pick it up a notch that final few hundred yards.  I swam until my hands scraped the bottom of the lake then ran out of the water towards transition.

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Swim

Swim—1:12:34

I was quickly stripped of my wetsuit and headed for my cycling gear.  As I ran up to the bike gear bags, someone yelled out my number.  And then there was a volunteer holding my bag up for me.  Talk about customer service!  I grabbed the bag and looked at the port-a-potty before deciding I didn’t have to pee that badly and running into the changing tent.

The volunteer that helped me was on top of things, but I honestly didn’t know what to do with all the help.  I’m used to going through stuff myself.  I kept accidentally putting stuff back into the bag myself when the volunteer was totally happy to do that for me.  I threw on my helmet and the bracelet they gave us to give to a volunteer that we encountered during the race, without whom we felt we wouldn’t have finished.

But soon enough, I was ready to get my bike.  As I ran towards my bike, I saw Rob on the other side of the fence.  I gave him a big smile and a wave as I reached my bike.  I waited to put on my cycling shoes until I was at my bike to avoid getting dirt stuck in the cleats.  It also gave my Garmin a bit of time to wake up.  After I was ready to go, I ended up standing still for a minute or so while my Garmin found a satellite.  Fortunately, though, it didn’t take too long, and before I knew it, I was running with my bike towards the mount line.  The mount line, though, was practically miles away.  I felt like I was running for ages before I finally saw the folks in front of me mounting their bikes.  I reached the line, mounted my own bike, and was off on my 112 mile ride.

T1—6:12

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2016 Pre-race Report

Doing an Ironman is an ordeal.

It’s not just the training or the race.  The actual logistics of the event itself are just difficult to navigate.  You have to pack up half your household, somehow transport a bike that is likely your most prized possession, and then actually get yourself and your support crew to the location.  On top of that, you go through the entire check-in process and pack about a thousand bags and check them all in at different times.  It’s just an ordeal, and planning and executing that part of the event can be complicated.

I wanted to spend some time in Idaho with my family before heading up to Coeur d’Alene.  It had been a while since I’d seen my nieces and nephews, so I wanted some quality aunt time with them.  But I think the main reason was that I knew if I drove up to Idaho on the Monday before the race, that meant I would have to be packed and ready by the Monday before the race.  It was an excellent way to keep myself from procrastinating.  Rob wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of taking that much time off work, so we talked about different options for flying him up later or having him drive up later.  In the end, he was more than happy to do what made me the most comfortable, and that was driving up together so I wouldn’t have to drive my unreliable car or pay for an expensive plane ticket for one of us.

So, on Sunday, I packed up all my Ironman equipment in addition to everything I would need for a week away from home, and on Monday morning, Rob and I drove up to Idaho.  We stopped at TriTown (the bike/tri shop we used when we lived in Boise) on our way into town, and I got some brand new race tires before heading to my parents’ house for some time with my crazy family.

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Smart-eyeing all the cool gear.

The time off before the race was welcome.  I was able to get my workouts in without any stress, and with my nieces and nephews always available to distract me, I was able to take my mind off the race a little.  The last week or so of work consisted mostly of me realizing I was sitting at my desk and worrying about my race instead of actually working, so the distraction of a few wild kids was actually very helpful.

On Thursday, Rob, my parents, and I drove up to Coeur d’Alene.  We ended up driving into town right along the highway that composed more than half of the Ironman bike course.

“Oh!  This is where I’ll be riding!” I said to Rob.  “It’ll be a good chance to actually see what the course looks like!”

We descended a hill, and when we reached the bottom, I saw what my future contained—a steep hill that seemed to go on forever, with the road disappearing as it curved behind some beautiful evergreens.  We started up the hill, and as the seconds ticked by without any relief in the grade, the mood in the car became somber.

“You’re riding up this?  Twice?!” Rob asked.

“Well, I’ve prepared for it,” I replied.  But I’m certain the doubt in my voice was evident.

We stopped in town on our way in so I could do a short swim in the lake.  My parents had driven up separately and met us in town.  “Did you see those hills?” my dad asked.  “Are you riding up those?”  I attempted to feign the same confidence I had attempted to feign earlier while getting into my wetsuit.

 

The water felt wonderful, and although my arms felt a little sluggish, the swim helped calm me down and distracted me from the hills on the course.  I couldn’t believe how clear the water was.  It was so clear, I actually saw a few beer cans sitting at the bottom of the lake.

After my swim, we drove to our residence for the weekend.  My parents’ neighbors have a vacation home up in Coeur d’Alene about twenty minutes outside of town.  They were kind enough to let us stay there at no charge.  For an introverted slob like myself, staying somewhere outside of town with a little space to spread out was perfect.  Crowds and socializing wear me out, so having my own room and a nice backyard porch (with a beautiful view) to which I could escape helped me avoid tiring myself out completely before the race even started.

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Engrossed in my phone (in other words, relaxing)

On Friday morning, my parents and I left Rob behind (he went on a bike ride) and drove down to town to check in to the race.  The atmosphere was awesome.  The roads and lake were peppered with triathletes getting in their final workouts before the race.  We got to the expo early, about ten minutes before check in even opened.  A line was already beginning to form, and by the time it opened at 10:00am, the line had grown exponentially.  The check in process was quick and efficient, and I was pleasantly surprised at the swag.  All the athletes got a nice (and giant) wide-mouth backpack, easily large enough to a helmet, bike shoes, and a wetsuit.  After checking in, we attended the athlete briefing and then headed out to drive the course.

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Athlete check-in
AthleteBriefing
Athlete briefing

The hills seemed a little less intimidating the second time around, but only just.  They still looked much steeper than the grades I’d done in training, even though the numbers didn’t really back up that impression.  I tried to focus on the numbers instead of my perception, but I wasn’t entirely successful.  On top of the course fears, I found myself feeling a bit punky.  I had had a slightly scratchy throat for a couple of days that I was desperately trying to ignore, but I also felt run-down and a little achy.  To be honest, I was worried I was coming down with a bad cold.  But I knew if I was, there was nothing I could do about it.  In addition to all of that, the predicted high for race day was up to 90°.  Of course, the high the day after the race was only supposed to be 78°.  “Great,” I said to my dad, “It’s going to be hot on Sunday, plus really windy because that cold front will blow in.”  But there was nothing I could do about any of it, so after heading “home” after driving the course, I just did my best to relax and be positive.  I focused on packing up my transition bags and getting everything where it needed to be for the equipment check-in on Saturday.

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It looks horrible, but there was a method to my madness!

Saturday morning dawned, and I knew that in less than 24 hours, I’d be starting my Ironman.  I had a quick run-through of each sport scheduled.  I did my run in the morning before heading into town for the bike check-in.  Physically, I felt great.  My body felt rested and ready to go.  I was still a nervous wreck, though.  I took my bike to the little shop they have for Ironman competitors because the front derailleur was rubbing slightly in my hardest gears.  It seemed like there was going to be a long wait time which threw off my whole plan for the day and also threw me into a bit of a panic.  I started tearing up right there at the mechanic’s tent, and they immediately got someone to work on my bike.  Of course, then I felt bad because I worried they were working on my bike just because I started crying and that I was being unfair and manipulative even though the tears were completely genuine… if a bit silly and overwrought. But my bike was fixed.  And it would have been a bummer if my five-minute fix had to wait for things like aerobar installations to be done (yes, the woman in front of me really was getting aerobars installed on her bike the day before the race).

With the crisis averted, I hopped in the lake for a short swim.  The water felt great, and I felt as strong on the swim as I had on my run.  I followed the swim with an equally successful short bike ride.  Then, we spent some time walking around the expo for a bit.  I’m not a huge lover of expos, but I do like to see the different products and grab whatever freebies I can.  After taking a look at the expo, we headed back “home.”  I was relaxing by mid-afternoon, and I kept looking at my watch and thinking about where I would be in my race by that time tomorrow.

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Ready to swim.
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A field of bike bags
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And a field of run bags.

I actually handled my nerves pretty well that evening.  During one particular nervous spell, though, my dad gave me some advice.  “Katie,” he said, “just remember that you don’t have to run the last mile of the marathon until you get there.  You don’t have to start the marathon until you get off the bike, and you don’t have to ride the last 20 miles when you are still on the swim.  Just take the race one piece at a time.  Focus on the part of the race you are doing.”  I filed that away in the “advice to think about during the race” folder of my brain.

Surprisingly, I managed to eat a good dinner, and after watching a little bit of the Olympics, I was in bed by 9:00pm.  That’s a little late considering the 3:00am alarm I had set, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep much earlier and that a great night’s sleep the night before an event actually isn’t all that important.  And I didn’t want to lie awake for hours trying to sleep.  So, after a few “false starts,” where I would start to fall asleep and then suddenly panic about one minuscule thing or another, I was asleep for the last time before my Ironman.

Echo Olympic Triathlon (7/09/2016)

The Echo Olympic Triathlon was my only planned Olympic distance race and my last race before my Ironman.  I knew this race would give me a good indication of my current fitness level as well as a starting point for next year when I plan to focus on shorter distances.  For this race, I did come up with some time goals:

Swim—27:30
Bike—1:20:00
Run—49:42
Overall—2:44:00

I picked the swim goal a little arbitrarily.  I figured I could hit 1:40/100yds over 1500m, and that comes out to around 27:30.  I’ve beaten this time in an Olympic triathlon before, but I have no way of knowing exactly how accurate that course was or exactly how accurate the Echo course would be.  I also still tend to think of 1:40/100yd as my “fast” pace.  I’ve disproved that in the pool, but not in open water.

My bike goal is a little arbitrary too. My goal time came out to an average of 18.6mph.  Honestly, over shorter distances without hills or stops, I had no idea what my capabilities were.  The fact that I had literally ridden on my race wheels once did not help me pinpoint where my fitness was for this type of event.  I hoped that this was a fairly conservative goal, and I had some visions of 20mph average speeds dancing in my head.

Finally, my run goal was anything but arbitrary.  I’ve been trying to beat an 8:00/mile pace on the Olympic distance run for a couple of years now (which actually translates to a couple of races, so it’s not terribly dramatic), but I’ve always cracked.  I was hoping with my deep endurance base this year, things would be different.  I had a bone to pick with the Olympic triathlon run.

My overall goal was generous compared to my individual goals. That’s because (other than having a strong practice and great workout) my main goal was just to PR.  I thought I was stronger than when I did my first Olympic distance triathlon in 2014, and I loved the idea of seeing some improvement.  I fizzled out a bit at my race last year, and I wanted to feel good about my performance at a shorter race to boost my confidence for next year.

I had a very low-key evening the night before the race.  I made a list and packed up all my stuff, ate macaroni and cheese for dinner, and went to bed around 7:45pm.  (I played on my phone a bit before falling asleep.)  My alarm went off bright and early at 3:50am, and I didn’t have trouble waking up at all.  I ate a bagel, threw my stuff in my car, and headed over to Rob’s house.  As we got ready to leave his place, I suddenly remembered I had to put my race tattoos on.  “WAIT!” I yelled as we left his house.  “I need my race numbers!”  I had packed them, so they were in my bag.  I just had to put them on which took a little time.  We stopped to get some McDonald’s on the way up which took a little more time than anticipated.  Then, the entrance we planned to use to get on the freeway was closed for construction!  A little more time.  By this point, we were running late, and I was really glad that I always plan to get to triathlons stupid early because “late” for us wouldn’t really be late at all.

We reached Coalville and parked.  Because the race was staged in a campground without much parking, athletes had to ride their bikes to the start and spectators had to take a shuttle. The ride to the start was easy, and I was set up in transition before I knew it.

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Aside from one quick run back to transition to start and then pause my Garmin (so I could be sure it would be ready to go), I didn’t run into any snags. The race started a bit late, so I had some time to hang around in my wetsuit and chat with fellow racers. I even hopped into the water beforehand (despite the beach start) to warm up a bit.

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Swim caps are hard.

Swim—25:02.4
It was a rolling swim start, so I seeded myself around 1:40/100yds and followed the leader into the water.  The rolling swim start did cut down on some of the boxing that can happen during triathlon swim starts, but it didn’t really feel necessary for a smaller Olympic distance race like this.  I immediately starting passing people who thought far too highly of their swimming abilities.  Apparently, this is just a thing that triathletes do, and it drives me crazy every time!  It wasn’t long before I broke through a particular group and was swimming mostly on my own in open water.

With the open water came the waves.  It must have been windy because the water was choppier than I’ve seen in smallish bodies of water that close to the shore.  I got hit in the face with waves a few times, and I felt myself rising and falling with the swells.  It. Was. Awesome.  I’m somewhat strange in that I actually enjoy swimming in water that’s a little bit rougher.  I know it doesn’t help my time, but (as long as I can avoid motion sickness) I think it’s really fun.  So I had a blast out there.  Only one moment stood out as less-than-awesome: it was almost impossible to sight the buoy when I turned back to shore because the sun was directly in my eyes (I followed the people in front of me).  I reached the end of the swim and Rob yelled that I was (about) the seventh woman out of the water.  I was halfway from the water to T1 when I thought to look at my watch.  I was shocked to see 24:30.  I had blown my goal time away, even with the long run-up to the transition.

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T1—2:15
I had another absurdly slow transition.  In my defense, the transition area was gravel which meant there was sand everywhere and I had to carry my bike out in order to avoid the possibility of goatheads.  But still.  Every woman who finished ahead of me had a faster T1 time than I did.  It’s something I need to work on.

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I guess now I’m prepare to try cyclocross?

Bike—1:17:11.9
I got on the bike and headed out.  I could tell my heart rate was pretty high, not from working hard but from the general rush of T1.  So I focused on calming down and getting into a groove.  It was a great bike course.  There were a few rolling hills (though “hills” feels a little excessive) on the way out, and then we turned onto a road that was a false flat going up.  For most of the way out, I was holding a speed of around 17mph, more when it was a little flatter and less when it was a little steeper.  I passed two strong swimmers early on (it’s always exciting for me to pass people on the bike!) and was passed once right away (with a “Nice swim!” tossed my way which was encouraging!).  I waited for a stream of fast women to pass me, but it never happened.  I did get passed a couple more times throughout the bike leg, but I was holding my own!  On my way to the turn around, I took advantage of the slower pace and ate a Honey Stinger waffle and drank plenty of water.

It was a beautiful course, and the only downfall was the horrible condition of the roads.  There were nasty potholes everywhere.  And there was plenty of flat-tire carnage on the side of the road.  I must have seen four to six athletes after the turn-around point pulled over changing tires.  Fortunately, I didn’t end up getting a flat.  And I gained some time by using the downhill grade on the way back.  I got down in my aero bars and took full advantage of those new aero wheels.  I flew down the road until we turned back on the road we headed out on.  I slowed down some then because of the hills (which were more uphill coming back than they were going out).  I spotted another woman who had passed me earlier and decided to keep her in my sights to see how she held up during the run.  I rolled into transition, thrilled with my time and ready to attack the run.

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Rolling into T2…

T2—1:19
The second transition wasn’t as slow, but it still wasn’t great.  I forgot to take my sunglasses off, but I decided to go with it.  Normally, I don’t run in sunglasses, but I hoped that the sun being out of my eyes would trick me into thinking it was cooler than it was and remove some of the feeling of the sun beating down on me.  It actually seemed to work (or maybe I’m just better acclimated to running in the sun/heat).

Run—47:12.8
It’s always hard to gauge my pace off the bike, but I started off with a pace that I felt I could sustain for six miles.  I was not far behind the woman who had passed me on the bike, so I hung out behind her for the first part of the run.  Once I got my legs under me and got an idea of how strong I felt, I picked up the pace slightly and ran past her.  As I grabbed some water while passing the first aid station (they were stationed about every mile on the run), she almost passed me back, but I picked it up a bit and she dropped back slightly.  I hit that first mile mark in about eight minutes, so I knew I was on or near my target pace.  However, upon seeing my pace hovering so close to that magic number, I picked it up a bit.  I slowly reeled people in throughout the first half of the run, but I worked on keeping my pace controlled.  I didn’t want the second half of the run to break me.

Upon reaching the turn around, I glanced at my watch and was surprised to see 23:35.  I had been working on reeling in a woman in front of me for a while which must have caused me to pick up my pace.  I still felt relatively strong, and I was encouraged at the cushion I had.  However, at some point on the run back, I forgot my target time.  An 8:00/mile pace comes out to a 49:42 10k.  However, I totally misremembered it as 48:24.  Go figure.  Because I thought I had started my watch a late for the run (I did, but only by a few seconds), I didn’t feel quite safe even though I knew I was making good time.  The run back was hard.  The sun was getting warmer, and my legs were getting tired.  We were running on a packed dirt trail, and I noticed my footfalls getting lazy and wobbly, like my steps weren’t landing exactly where I wanted.  However, I was desperate to hit that 8:00/mile pace, so I focused hard on running “strong.”  I didn’t think about going fast.  I just concentrated on taking strong, confident steps.  The last mile and a half was especially tough.  The whole run looked the same (beautiful, but the same), so even though I knew how far out I was, it felt like I wasn’t getting any closer to the finish.  After what seemed like forever, I rounded a bit of a bend in the trail and saw the finish line a few hundred yards away.  I picked it up a little bit more and did my best impression of a sprint finish.

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I actually had some running pictures where I didn’t look terrible!

Total time—2:32:59.6

After finishing, I wandered around in a little bit of a daze.  Rob had been cheering for me about a hundred yards from the finish, so I didn’t see him right away.  I found some watermelon and munched on that.  I finally tracked down some water.  After a few minutes, I went off and found Rob.  He had made a friend during the race, and we also ran into some folks we knew from Boise.  We chatted with them while we waited for the race results to be posted.  Once the results were posted, I saw that I finished second in my age group.  They weren’t doing podium awards for all the age groups, so I just went over to the awards table and picked up my second place water bottle.  And then we drove home.

I was thrilled with my race performance.  I demolished all of my time goals and truly surprised myself in my swim and run.  It’s apparent to me that the strong endurance base I’ve built this year has helped me in these shorter races.  I know that the bike is still my weak leg, but that gap is closing, even though I’m also a stronger swimmer and runner than I was last year.  With some training and a focus on shorter distances next year, I’m hopeful that I can break through the 2:30 barrier.

The stats:
Overall time—2:32:59.6
Swim—25:02.4 (1:40/100m; 1:32/100yd)
Bike—1:17:11.9 (19.31 mph)
Run—47:12.8 (7:36/mile)
Overall place—44/225
Gender place—7/77
Age group—2/9

Cell to Well 12k

My training plan called for a 15k race this past weekend.  Now, 15ks are not a particularly common race distance.  They pop up now and again, but it’s not like a 5k or 10k where there will almost certainly be one within driving distance on any given weekend during the summer.  So when I started looking for a race, I figured I’d find a 10k to do and supplement that 10k with an extra three miles or so on my own.

However, to my surprise, I found an even stranger distance than a 15k.  There was a 12k being put on by the South Davis Recovery Club.  The Cell to Well 12k is a fundraiser that the club puts on every summer to help raise money.  It starts at the Davis County Jail to represent the (literal or figurative) imprisonment of addiction and finishes at the club’s headquarters to symbolize their journey to and through recovery.  It’s always nice when selfish interests (i.e. racing) line up with charitable causes.

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Source

12k is just under 7.5 miles.  Looking at my paces in my two most recent timed runs (my half marathon and the 5k in my sprint triathlon), I decided on my goals for the race.  I knew that I wouldn’t be performing at my best because I’m in the middle of a hard training cycle focused on very long distances.  However, I knew I had retained at least some speed based on my performance in my sprint triathlon a couple of weeks ago.

A-goal—57:00 (7:38/mile pace)

B-goal—58:30 (7:50/mile pace)

I didn’t know what to expect for this race.  I guessed that it would be quite small, and with small races, things like course length accuracy, course marking, and aid stations can be quite spotty.  However, since it was only about 7.5 miles and I was racing for a workout, I wasn’t too worried about these aspects of it and decided to just play it by ear.

Rob and I got to the start a little before 7:00am.  They didn’t have any bathrooms there (oops!).  Fortunately, there was a grocery store just a quarter mile or so away, so Rob and I walked over there so I could use their bathroom.  After we got back, I picked up my t-shirt and number and asked a few logistical questions about the course.  The woman told me that there would be mile markers, aid stations every two miles, and that the course was well-marked.  I took a look at a sketched map of the course route, and it was blessedly simple.  I took note of the two roads that I would turn onto (Jennings and 400 West) and then headed out for a jog to warm up.  I actually ran back over to the grocery store to use the bathroom again.  I tried to warm up longer than usual for this race.  It was still probably only a ten minute jog and a few build-ups, but that’s more than I usually do.

Everyone at the start was very friendly and welcoming.  There were probably only 20-30 people doing the 12k option (the 5k option started elsewhere).  Rob and I discussed who the winners would be.  I thought Tattoo Guy looked really strong, but Rob thought America (a guy with flag running shorts) was going to take it easily.  I chatted a bit with a girl who was going into 10th grade and getting ready to run cross-country for the first time.  It was fun to see someone right at the beginning of their running career, excited and still a little unsure of how everything worked.

The race start was very low-key.  We gathered up in a group and one of the volunteers counted down and then said “GO!”  We took off.  I focused on taking it easy at first.  I was running by feel, and I know that I tend to go out to fast when I start a race.  A few guys shot ahead of me, including Tattoo Guy and America.  I was lead woman from the start which I kind of expected.  Most of the folks at the start were casual runners (or, rather, more casual than I am), and while I try not to take someone’s appearance as the end-all assumption for how they will perform, in this case, it turned out to be accurate.  I focused on my body for the first part of the race—staying on my toes, thinking about my breathing, being conscious of my arm position.  The guys ahead of me continued to open the gap, and I was essentially running alone after the first half mile or so (though I could still see the guys in the distance).  Once my watch hit 7:00, I started keeping an eye out for the first mile marker.  I didn’t see it.  Finally, after my watch hit 8:30, I knew I had either missed it or it hadn’t existed.  I suspect the latter, and the fact that I didn’t see a mile marker the entire race lends credence to that suspicion.  So I decided to run by time.  I knew I wanted to finish in 57 minutes.  I knew it wouldn’t take me much longer than an hour, even if I totally blew up.  So I used that as my measure of how much further I had to run and how close I was to the finish. (I did see an aid station at what was probably the two-mile mark.  I hit it right about 15 minutes in so, although I didn’t know exactly how accurate the aid station placement was, I knew I was close to pace and was reassured that I hadn’t started off way too fast.)

Around twenty minutes into the race, I approached what looked like a long, steep hill.  Looking back at the course profile after mapping it out, I suspect that this hill was partly an optical illusion.  It turns out, I had been running downhill, so the sudden uphill that I was approaching appeared that much steeper in contrast.  I didn’t want to burn myself out on the hill, so I took it slow and steady.  I dropped my speed a bit but focused on my arms and on staying on my toes.  The climb was over before I knew it.

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The course profile

I was just getting into a groove after climbing the hill when I glanced up and noticed the street name for the street I was crossing: Jennings!  I was supposed to turn here!  I looked over and did see a poster with an arrow pointed to the right.  Not exactly what I would consider “well-marked,” but it was marked.  I veered to the right to make the turn.  Up until that point, I had been able to see one lone male runner in front of me.  I was almost certain he hadn’t made the turn.  I was on the lookout for the next (and last) turn because I knew it happened pretty quickly.  Sure enough, I saw the road easily and turned onto the “homestretch.” (I was only about halfway through the race at this point).

I started struggling to keep my pace up fairly early on, around forty minutes in.  I had been expecting to see an aid station around four miles in, and not having that marker of my progress was a big disappointing.  Also, looking at the course profile after the fact reveals that the final miles of the race were uphill on a false flat.  At this point, I was just focusing on keeping my pace steady and was looking forward to hitting that 57-58 minute mark that would bring about the end of the race.  I knew I had slowed down some, but I felt like I was still keeping a solid pace.  I received some encouragement when I passed the group of runners getting ready to start the 5k option in the park.  It was a pleasant surprise to suddenly hear people cheering for me (and to get confirmation I was going in the right direction!).  My watch said I was closer than three miles to the finish, so I suspected the 5kers looped around the park a bit before heading to the finish line (I’m pretty sure I was right on this).  However, there was a bit of confusing signage, so I had to double back ten yards or so to make sure I was going in the right direction.

Around 45 minutes, I was struck with a great fear.  What if the course was long?!  I balanced that out by reminding myself that it was equally likely the course was short.  I knew that in either case, I couldn’t control it, so I just kept running.  I was running through city streets now, and it was getting warmer.  For the next ten minutes, I just kept running.  I finally saw another aid station and did take a little water from this one.  My body didn’t need it, but I was feeling thirsty and knew I’d be a bit more comfortable after some water.

Since I was on a straight stretch, I knew I’d be able to see the finish at any minute.  I saw some orange up ahead.  I thought it might be finish line stuff, and I was disappointed as it came into focus and I saw it was simply construction.  Then, right past the construction, I thought I saw some red and bright yellow shirts.  There had been a large group of folks wearing red shirts at the start, and the race t-shirts were yellow, so I was hopeful that I was approaching the finish.  I picked it up and I wasn’t disappointed.  I was nearing the finish, and I was pleased to be well under 57 minutes.  I was almost certain I’d finish just under 57, so I kept the pace up and did my best to sprint into the parking lot where the finish was located.

When I ran into the parking lot, though, I didn’t see anything that looked like a finish line.  I yelled out, “Where’s the finish?!” but I didn’t get an answer.  Since I had entered the parking lot and passed the “chute” of caution tape, I assumed I was done, so I stopped my watch and slowed to a stop.  Then someone yelled, “You need to run to the trucks!”  I looked up and saw a couple of trucks set up.  So I ran to them instead… for an “official” finish time of 57:03, just shy of my A-goal.  I lost at least 5 seconds from the false finish and probably 30 when I had to backtrack to make sure I was still on the (not well-marked!) course.  Needless to say, as casual as this race was for me, I was frustrated about missing out on my A-goal because of organizational efforts.  But because it was such a casual race, I was able to put it behind me pretty quickly.

I was the first woman (and the third person) to finish the 12k.  Tattoo Guy won, and America did indeed miss the turn.  He came in quite a while later going quite slowly.  I’m not sure if he blew up or just ended up running a lot of extra distance.  I think the second place guy also missed the turn, but he came back on course by taking a later turn without running (much?) extra.  For what it’s worth, when I mapped out the course at home later, it came up a little long at 7.52 miles.  That doesn’t take into account tangents, of course, but considering this race was mostly a straight-shot, I wouldn’t be surprised if the course was a bit long, even if I ran the tangents perfectly.  So, for a (possibly) slightly long course, a few time penalties because of organizational issues, and a net elevation gain, I think I did alright.

I stuck around, and they actually had some good food at the finish.  They had a large selection of fruit and some sandwiches.  I wasn’t feeling up to eating the sandwiches, but I really enjoyed the fruit.  They waited a long time to hand out awards, but hanging out wasn’t too bad, even for someone anti-social like myself.  Since it was a fundraiser for a recovery club, I knew that there were a lot of changed lives in that parking lot, and it was uplifting to see that group celebrating their own recoveries and raising funds to help others recover as well.

Since I finished third overall, I won a pretty sweet gift basket.  The basket had quite a few gift certificates amounting up to approximately $60-$75 dollars.  Most of those were to stores or restaurants up in Bountiful which is 20-30 minutes away from Salt Lake City, but I will take the time to go up and redeem those within the next couple of months or so.

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I won a thing!!!

Overall, this was a fun race and well worth running.  Based on this report, it’s probably obvious that it did fall prey to some of the typical issues with small races, such as a poorly marked course and some questionable organization (no bathrooms at the start and no clearly marked finish line).  That’s the risk you take with small races, though, and I think as long as you know to expect that, it’s not a problem.  I went into this race looking for an opportunity to push myself hard at a specific distance, and that’s exactly what I got, so my experience with it was definitely positive. Had I wanted to PR at a distance or achieve some other important mark, I would have signed up for a larger race that I knew would have mile markers, an easy-to-follow course, etc.

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The stats
Time: 57:03
Pace: 7:39/mile
Place: 1st woman, 3rd overall

Tri the Heights Sprint Triathlon (6/04/2016)

My first triathlon of the season sneaked up on me.  I knew it was coming, but it wasn’t until it was a week out that it hit me.  I had a race coming up… soon!

I spent some time trying to come up with a time goal (both overall and for each sport), but nothing felt quite right.  Everything felt arbitrary.  I didn’t have much of a standard on which to base any time goals.  The swim was in a 50 meter pool instead of a 25 yard pool. The ride was short (10.9 miles), but tough.  I had ridden it in the middle of a long ride a couple of weeks earlier, and I knew that there were some steep sections that I didn’t know how to account for when predicting a time.  The run depended on how cooked my legs were after the bike.  Because of this uncertainty and the length of the race, I only had one strategy and one goal going into this race.

Hammer it.

It was a sprint triathlon, after all.

Well, because brevity isn’t my strong suit, the plan was a bit more detailed than that.  I wanted to swim hard enough that my arms felt like jelly at the end of the swim.  Then, I wanted to get up those hills as fast as I could and take advantage of the downhill second half of the bike course to help my legs recover a bit.  Finally, I wanted to run a fairly aggressive 5k.  Not stupid-aggressive, but confident-aggressive.

The race start was just a few miles from Rob’s parents’ house, so I stayed there the night before.  It was easier, less stressful, and allowed me to get an extra fifteen minutes or so of sleep.  Plus, it meant a completely stress-free evening.  I watched some TV and got to bed super early.  And since 4:00am wakeup calls are not that unusual since I’ve been training, I didn’t even mind getting that early to get ready for the race (which started at 6:30am).

I had some water in the morning and managed to eat a pretty solid pre-race breakfast of a banana, a hardboiled egg, and a bagel.  Since I had packed the evening before, all I had to do was fill up my water bottle, grab my bag, and head out the door.  I was nervous about the race, but I kept feeling like I should be more stressed about actually getting there with everything I needed.  But I had planned well, so it went really smoothly.  I got to the pool around 5:30am and set up my transition area.  That took me about five minutes, and then I kind of thought to myself, “Well… what now?”  I was at this race on my own, so I just kind of wandered around.  I snacked on some trail mix.  I went to the bathroom.  I went to the bathroom again.  I looked at the pool and tried to mentally prepare myself for the long course.  And before I knew it, it was time to line up for the swim.

Pool
The long course pool

Swim—7:17.37

The swim was 400m in a 50m pool.  You swam down one lane, then popped under the lane line and swam back in the next lane.  People lined up by their projected swim time.  I guessed I would swim somewhere around 7:00 or 7:15, so that’s where I lined up.  I was wearing my tri shorts, but instead of my tri top, I had on a bikini top.  I was hoping the smaller, tighter top would cut down on drag.  There were a few other swimmers doing the same thing, and it was a good decision, even if I did feel a little awkward standing there exposed for the world to see (I’m not used to bikinis… I’ve never even done a sports-bra only run!).  They started us off every ten seconds.  When it was my turn, I hopped in and took off.  I swam the first 50m really quickly and caught up to the woman in front of me by the time I had reached the first turn.

After that, though, I settled into a bit of a rhythm.  I felt strong swimming and continued to pass people who had clearly over-estimated their swimming ability.  I was only passed once on the swim, by a teenage boy who was a little fish.  The only problem I had were the turns.  I knew that I would have to do a flip turn and navigate under the lane line while doing so.  I thought it would be a pretty natural adjustment, so I didn’t bother to practice that particular skill.  It was not natural.  Almost every single turn, I’d flip and then be sure I was completely past the lane line only to come up and hit it with my back or my head or my butt.  And every single time, I’d tell myself I’d pay more attention and get it right the next time.  I never did.  All my flip turns sucked, though my turns were faster than they would have been if I had done open turns, so I just stuck with the tragic flip turns.  I climbed out the pool and glanced at my watch because I wanted an idea of what I swam (without the run to the transition incluced).  6:56!  Off to a great start!

T1—01:53.47

My first transition was comically long.  I had my tri top all laid out with the number already attached so I could just pull it on quickly.  But I was wet and the material kept sticking to me which caused the entire top to get all twisted.  I was struggling to pull it on and just could not get it.  It probably took me an extra 20-30 seconds just to get it all figured out.  It was a little funny, and while I was slightly annoyed at the time, I was more amused and it didn’t affect my attitude going into the bike leg at all.

Bike—37:31.73

I finally got out of transition and started the bike.  There was a short portion right at the beginning of the course that was downhill, and then the uphill grind began.  I’m glad I rode the course a couple of weeks ago because I knew what to expect.  Additionally, since I was starting the course fresh instead of an hour into a long ride, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered.  I passed a couple of women and men early on in the course and was passed by a few men early in the course as well.  However, for most of the bike, I was racing alone.  The first climb was tough, but there were still a few people ahead of me that I could catch, so it went quickly.  The second climb is longer, but I was able to put my bike in a pretty low gear and spin without mashing the pedals too hard.  Because this course was hilly, my particular bike was an advantage.  When I got my bike, I opted for a compact crankset, which basically means you have a few more easy gears and a few fewer hard gears.  That allowed me to keep my cadence pretty high, even on the steeper climbs.

BikeCourse
Elevation chart for the bike course

Of course, what goes up must come down.  The second half of the course was awesome.  The descents were fast, but not so fast that I had to give up free speed and use my brakes to stay safe.  I was able to pedal easily but without spinning out in my hardest gears for a large part of the descent.  Before I knew it, I was almost done.  As I mentioned, I had seen a few women, but (much to my surprise) I hadn’t been passed by any.  I knew I had been near the front of the swim line and had passed one or two women both in the swim and on the bike.  I started to wonder if I was the first woman.  I knew I was up there with the leaders, and that kept me working hard during the end of the bike leg where it would have been easy to hold back and conserve energy.

T2—00:52.14

I made my way into T2 and chatted with a woman waiting for her relay team member while I changed my shoes.  She mentioned that I was the second woman to come into the transition.  I was pleased to hear that, but I’ll admit I was a tad bit disappointed that I wasn’t the lead woman like I thought I might possibly have been.  I ran out of transition, ready for that 5k.

Run—22:45.95

My legs protested as I started the run.   I usually run really easily off the bike, so I was somewhat surprised.  It’s supposed to be easy right now!  I’m not supposed to start hurting yet!  I reminded myself that the first part of the race was a false flat and that I was running uphill, even if it didn’t look like it, and tried to stay positive.  Sure enough, as I kept running, I felt better.  Based on my times when I crossed the various mile markers, I’m not 100% sure they were accurate.  I wasn’t too concerned because I really was running on effort.  A mile or so into the run, I saw someone up ahead with long hair.  She didn’t look all that strong at the time, and I thought there was a good chance I could catch her.  She was pretty far up there, though, so I wasn’t sure.  Before I gain any significant ground, I heard someone breathing behind me.  Based on the tone of the breaths, I guessed it was a woman, and, sure enough, a couple seconds later, a woman blew by me.  I remembered that one woman mentioned having previous run a sub-19 open 5k on this very course as we were standing in line before the swim.  Because of that previous conversation, I wasn’t exactly surprised to see her, and since I could guess how fast she was going, I didn’t try to go with her.  There was no reason to burn myself out halfway through the 5k.

Instead, I just focused on running my race.  I passed several people (and was also passed once or twice myself!) and continued to gain on the woman that I had seen ahead of me earlier.  I still wasn’t sure if I’d be able to catch her by the end of the race, though.  Then I remembered that I already had a head start.  Because I hadn’t been passed by any women in the swim or on the bike and since I had passed the woman right in front of me in the swim, I knew that this woman started at least twenty seconds before me.  So I didn’t need to actually catch her—just get close!  For some reason, this mental boost is all I needed.  I picked up my pace a bit and started gaining faster.  I saw the last big hill on the run course and decided to push it up the hill to close the gap.  I ended up passing her right after the top of the hill and just kept going.  I was about half a mile from the finish when I passed her, so I tried to keep that pace through to the finish.

RunCourse
Elevation chart for the run course

After recovering for a few minutes, I went and checked the results.  Sure enough, I finished second place overall!  It was a small triathlon, but I was still thrilled with the results.  Better yet, I actually placed second in each of the different legs (I was beaten by a different person each time) which gives me hope that I’m a fairly well-rounded triathlete without an obvious weak point.  I waited around for the awards and got to go up and get my medal for placing first in my age group (only the overall winners got awards for their overall place).  This race was a great start to my season and was exactly the confidence booster I needed.

SLTCPhotoBadQuality
I found some other members of the Salt Lake Tri Club!
Podium
The top of the podium!

The stats:
Time—1:10:20.68
Overall place—12/113
Swim—9/113
Bike—19/113
Run—10/113
Gender place—2/53
Swim—2/53
Bike—2/53
Run—2/53
Age group place—1/10

Loot